Establishing the base


Moyes: You see we immediately set off west, and day after day we looked out to the south, for this land, the Sabrina Land, but never anything as far as you can see, just this white unbroken surface of the ice flow … there was a belt of such heavy, er ice stuff that the ship couldn’t possibly get through it, but to the left, to the port side there was an unusual formation, what we call an ice shelf, a big platform of ice attached to the land and stretching far out to sea, and the side of it was about 80 or 100 feet high, and alongside it was about half a mile of hard ice flow remaining over from last year’s freezing, so the Aurora slowly moved down there, the sounding was taken165 fathoms, then the Aurora laced up by the side of this ice flow, put out an ice anchor and the engine had died out while everybody went and had a rest. It’d been a pretty strenuous time.

But Frank Wild put a jumping ladder over the bow, called a couple of lads, went out for a walk along the flow, and he came back a quarter of an hour later. They went down to the hold and brought up two long planks from the floorboards of the suggested hut. He’d seen that along the ice flow various places there were big snow drifts that had come off from the ice shelf onto the flow and one of these was very high, so they clambered up there, and when they put the planks up leaning against the ice shelf they reached the top, so Frank Wild shinned up and walked onto the top of the ice shelf.

He came back to the ship and called us all together, and he said: ‘Now there’s always supposed to be a risk on these ice shelves, but I think this one is aground and I think it’s quite safe, we could land there,’ and we all said certainly, we don’t want to go back to Australia.

So he immediately went and saw the Captain, Captain Davis, and Captain Davis said: ‘Oh no, no, look out for scuttle (?) those icebergs shelves over there. They’ve definitely broken away from that ice shelf.’

But Frank Wild kept on with his argument and finally the Captain went ashore and he went up onto the ice shelf and he finally agreed that Wild knew more about land stuff than he did and he agreed to let us land there, so immediately they rigged up a flying fox up on the ice shelf and while the sailors put the timber and cold briquettes and everything on the below, the eight men of the party hauled it all up to the surface of the shelf and the Aurora went back to Australia.

Bowden: Do you remember your feelings when you saw the ship disappeared and leaving you … the South Pole?

Moyes: It was. We were sad to leave it go. We were very glad we weren’t in it. It’d been so much of a chance we’d have to stay there ... I’ll never forget the words as they went away because when Frank Wild said to Captain Davis: ‘Well thank you Captain, and I hope you have a good trip home’.

And the Captain said ‘yes’, with many adjectives, ‘You’d better be sure we do have a good trip home because, if we don’t, you’re there for the rest of your lives.’ Because no one knew where we were. We were 1500 miles from where Mawson expected us to be, and the Aurora had no sending wires, so no one would know we were there until they got back to Australia.

Bowden: Must have made you a bit nervous, or didn’t it?

Moyes: No, we weren’t, we weren’t worried. We were so glad to think that we’d landed at last, and we had such very great faith in Frank Wild already. He was a good leader. And so we then got to work. Four men sledged the stuff half a mile inland where Frank Wild had found a place which seemed clear of crevasses, and the four others started to build up the hut from the chart which had been made of it when it was in Australia, and in about three weeks time we were ready to settle into the hut.